Dana Madsen Calcutt
I would like to thank the News Tribune for writing a follow-up article about the death of Colin Madsen (4-28). As the mother of Colin and now the “primary victim,” I have been riding in the front seat of the devastating roller-coaster ride called “Suspicious Death of an American Citizen Abroad.” Within the word limit for letters, I feel compelled to share a few of the unexpected and disappointing bumps on the U.S. side of the ride, as there are no instructions to follow. I also hope that by publishing these, attention will be drawn to the deficiencies and changes will be made to make it easier for the next poor soul involuntarily selected to take the ride.
Although the U.S. State Department website for country safety has been updated and improved since Colin researched study abroad programs in 2013 (which I continue to endorse), one must realize the listing for causes of death are dictated by the HOST country. For example, Colin’s is listed as “accident/other,” which does not alert one to the fact that it was murder.
There are no standardized protocols for U.S. forensic pathologists to follow in this type of situation. The UN has protocols especially for this circumstance and as other countries have, these specific UN protocols need to be adopted and enforced in the U.S., so that evidence is not buried with the victim. Evidence is difficult to obtain; it is not faxed or sent voluntarily. It took three months to retrieve the evidence from Russia using an article in the Russian criminal code that allows the “primary victim” to collect the evidence in person. Once in hand, we could not find a U.S. forensic pathologist to comprehensively review the evidence (this is a messy, time-consuming and potentially dangerous task). Accordingly, we will be forever grateful to the Dutch-based, Independent Forensic Services (who also have a location in Colorado) and our Swiss forensic pathologist for their courage, professionalism, compassion and wisdom.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to our family, friends and incredible neighbors for their unconditional love and support with a special shout-out to the Garden Club, GG and SH for their hours of diligent research that allowed us to make forward progress. To the Team 29 lawyers and those producing “COLIN,” we are profoundly moved by your dedication and selflessness.